Poetry and my Mother
My first blog post for a while is in memory of my mother. She loved poetry and published a book of her own poems. She also loved to recite poetry.
I've chosen excerpts of three poems that remind me of her. They are by very different poets - Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Omar Khayyám, and Pablo Neruda.
Mum loved to recite the following lines from Locksley Hall, written in 1842 by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland during much of Queen Victoria's reign.
For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;
Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight dropping down with costly bales;
Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rain'd a ghastly dew
From the nations' airy navies grappling in the central blue;
Far along the world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm,
With the standards of the peoples plunging thro' the thunder-storm;
Till the war-drum throbb'd no longer, and the battle-flags were furl'd
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.
There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law.
She also loved these opening verses of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, translated by Edward Fitzgerald and published in 1859. Omar Khayyám was a Persian astronomer and poet from the twelfth century.
AWAKE! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan’s Turret in a Noose of Light.
Dreaming when Dawn’s Left Hand was in the Sky
I heard a voice within the Tavern cry,
“Awake, my Little ones, and fill the Cup
Before Life’s Liquor in its Cup be dry.”
And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before
The Tavern shouted — “Open then the Door!
You know how little while we have to stay,
And, once departed, may return no more.”
She recited many others but I'll post just one more. This one is by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, called Soneto XVII, and written in 1959, one hundred years after the Rubáiyát translation was published. Pablo Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. Mum recited this poem at a very special wedding (translation below):
No te amo como si fueras rosa de sal, topacio o flecha de claveles que propagan el fuego: te amo como se aman ciertas cosas oscuras, secretamente, entre la sombra y el alma.
Te amo como la planta que no florece y lleva dentro de sí, escondida, la luz de aquellas flores, y gracias a tu amor vive oscuro en mi cuerpo el apretado aroma que ascendió de la tierra.
Te amo sin saber cómo, ni cuándo, ni de dónde, te amo directamente sin problemas ni orgullo: así te amo porque no sé amar de otra manera,
sino así de este modo en que no soy ni eres, tan cerca que tu mano sobre mi pecho es mía, tan cerca que se cierran tus ojos con mi sueño.
Translated by Mark Eisner:
I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as one loves certain obscure things,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom but carries
the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose
from the earth lives dimly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,
except in this form in which I am not nor are you,
so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,
so close that your eyes close with my dreams.